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The sentence in the title is inspired by a sentence on the gate of hell in Dante Alighieri's masterwork Divine Comedy (Part I: Inferno). I usually write it on my office door after exams when I think there are some requests of failed students for a remedial exam. It illustrates that I don't accept such requests. Recently I thought it is not bad to be more flexible about this situation.

Question: What is the best policy about requests of students for remedial exams (or more time for their homework)? Are there situations that a teacher should consider such remedial opportunities? Should I replace the sentence on my office door with "Never say never!"?

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    $\begingroup$ You do realize that you are likening your office to Hell, right? $\endgroup$ – Brendan W. Sullivan Aug 1 '14 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ I think you are sending exactly the wrong message. Students who earn poor grades on an exam should be encouraged to come to your office hours... not to ask for a make-up test, but rather to ask for help with the material. In my opinion the message you want to send should be very clear: There will be no make-up exams, but I will do whatever I can to help you learn the material so that you will do better on the next exam. $\endgroup$ – mweiss Aug 1 '14 at 16:04
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    $\begingroup$ @saint georg: Surely. But the quote you use is an explicit reference to Inferno, so ... you ought to think about the message that conveys. $\endgroup$ – Brendan W. Sullivan Aug 2 '14 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ Jokes like that are tough, they are too easily misinterpreted, especially given the analogy. I prefer something closer to "I'm not Yoda, all I ask is 'try'". $\endgroup$ – JTP - Apologise to Monica Aug 4 '14 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ I would suggest removing the note immediately from the door. Many of your students will not find it funny. Nor will many of your colleagues. $\endgroup$ – André Nicolas Aug 8 '14 at 18:29
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I wouldn't put any such sentence on your door, just one in the syllabus explaining your make-up exam policy which should be determined at the beginning of the semester. You don't want to come off as mean, intimidating, or otherwise to students who might seriously have an issue where a make-up exam would be justifiable (illness, death of family, etc); not that you should want to come off that way to any student.

I would focus on a welcoming atmosphere for students, where they can discuss their exam if they are concerned about it, but if they ask for a make-up exam (as they will, no matter what you have written) you can just refer the the syllabus.

As for if you should offer a make-up or remedial exam, I would discuss this with your peers and see what the common departmental standard are. I usually lean towards no make-up or remedial exams unless they are on academic leave and I get notified by the administration or my coordinator.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well put. This question should be deleted. $\endgroup$ – Mikhail Katz Aug 5 '14 at 11:36
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    $\begingroup$ @katz - Here is a good example of how an answer can challenge the premises of the question, yet be civil and constructive. I hope this is helpful. $\endgroup$ – JPBurke Aug 10 '14 at 11:19

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